November 06, 2022

Book review: ‘Ladies Tailor’ by Priya Hajela

First and foremost, I must apologise to the author and to Blogchatter for this excruciatingly late review. 

There is a backstory to this delay, which includes the book changing hands and travelling across continents ( from my home without my knowledge). But more on that later. Let’s skip to the more fascinating story, the one by Priya Hajela. 

Title: Ladies Tailor 

Author: Priya Hajela

Publisher: HarperCollins India

Pages: 304 pages 

Price: Rs 300 (paperback), Rs 223 (kindle edition) 

‘Ladies Tailor’ is a story about a man on a mission, traveling across enemy lines amidst the tumultuous aftermath of partition. Gurdev Singh (the protagonist) takes on the risky task of traveling to Pakistan in search of two embroidery artists who are needed to kick start his small joint-business of stitching ladies clothing with two of his refugee friends, Nirmal and Sangat Singh. 

The interesting motley of characters at the refuge camps and their individual stories reveal the dismal condition of those who were forced to travel east, the brutality of the ensuing riots, and other hard hitting facts that occurred post-partition; this with no obvious bias towards any particular religion or community. 

The author’s attention to detail stands out in the way the author has described impressive details of the times and the Sikh community, like the starched vs. unstarched turbans, how turbans were tied, how different people wore their beards, the neatly combed netted version vs. the bobby pin version, vs. the unkempt, loose version—-the language and imagery employed paint a picture that transport one into the story and makes it befitting for a motion picture. 

The pages are peppered with lump-in-the-throat moments like when Gurdev sees his parents houses burning, and later, when he and his wife and children walk to the very front of the kafila and woke up at sunrise to begin walking, when his wife, Simran, struggles in silence, in sickness, without uttering a single word to a preoccupied Gurdev, about the dismal condition in the rescue camps with a lack of adequate toilet facilities. However, ‘Ladies Tailor’ is not just about that. It is an adventurous cross border rescue mission story. It is a story about friendship and gratitude. About love against societal  stereotypes. About truth, gender equality, sacrifice. 

As the story progresses, different facets of Gurdev’s personality are brought to light, which make you hate and love him in equal measure. You despise him for being indifferent towards his wife, but you also feel sorry for the state of mind he is in. You are mad at him for not being evocative and expressive, but then you love him for his stoic nature, and never-say-die attitude, his gentlemanly silence to betrayal, heartbreak, and temptation. His mature reformation when Simran leaves him, kids in tow is admirable. Instead of being shattered or jaded by the shock of betrayal, Gurdev seeks to improve himself and gradually changes into a man who is more sensitive to the emotional needs of a woman. 

While Gurdev struggles with his internal demons alone, he is also kept company by the friendships he forges along the way.  Especially heartwarming among these is the friendship between him and Nirmal and Sangat, and his chemistry with Noor, a war widow who manages to steal his heart with her forthright and audacious nature. 

His camaraderie with the refugees, the subtle romance with Noor, the ribbing, and friendly teasing; all these provide a warm vibe to the story. Gurdev’s life gets interwoven with theirs and embarks on the rescue-mission, for business, for friendship. Which eventually helps him make peace with his own demons and have a second chance at life and love. 

The high and low moments of adventure and emotions qualified for a well spun narrative inspiring in the reader the hope of starting over, of overcoming  loss; both personal and professional, of breaking to pieces and still gathering the courage to come together once again. 

The only regret I had was a sudden surprise of an ending. I hadn't  seen it coming for the next 5-10 pages and bam! It was there. A little too abrupt for a neatky tied wrap with no definitive ending for the personal stories of the motley of characters that were fleshed out so well in the beginning and middle that I'd expected at least a mention at the end. But it got me wondering whether the author was planning on a sequel. 

If there is one, it would be something to look out for.  

Personal rating: 4 out of 5 

Shopping link: Check it out here


This post is powered by Blogchatter Book Review Program. The views in this review are solely mine. 

1 comment:

K V V S MURTHY said...

It seems to be a very good novel to get not missed. Your review made me understand so. Have a nice da.